Computer memory – What is Memory?

Memory in a computer is a hardware device that can store data either temporarily or permanent. A single computer has many types of memories. For example, a memory to store data permanently in large amounts, or a memory to temporarily store the necessary data for CPU to function effectively or any cache memory that helps in speeding up the system.

In computing, memory often represents the semiconductor chips that can store data and can be directly accessed by the CPU at the run-time. Memory needs to be very fast for the computer to perform its functions immediately. RAM in a computer is more often represented as memory while a hard disk drive is represented as a secondary storage. So, whenever there is a talk about computer memory, they often refer to the computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory). While the term storage refers to the hard disk drive or solid state drive that are used to store data permanently.

A computer has mainly three types of memory.

  1. Cache memory
  2. Primary memory
  3. Secondary memory (Secondary storage).

Cache memory

It is the fastest type of memory in a computer. Cache memory contains the data that is accessed more frequently by the CPU. The operating system decides about what needs to be stored in a cache memory. This helps CPU to very quickly access the data that is used very often. However cache memories have very small capacity and are very expensive.

Primary memory

It is also called as the Main memory. The RAM (Random Access Memory) in a computer is a primary memory. Primary memory stores the data that is in use by the computer, as soon as the data is not being used, RAM empties those bits of data and creates a space for new data. CPU is in direct access with the main memory, though the main memory is not as fast as the cache memory, but, it is sufficiently fast enough to meet the requirements of the CPU.

Secondary memory

This is a type of memory that is used to store large amounts of data permanently. This usually refers to the Hard disk drives or Solid state drives. These memories are not as fast as the Main memory, so, CPU does not directly access data from the secondary storage, as this would make a computer slower.

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